Mrs. Fanny Bennet (Alison Steadman) is a woman of very nervous disposition with an insatiable appetite for gossip and one major goal in life - to see all of her five daughters married. This will prove to be a tall order because herself and Mr. Bennet (Benjamin Whitrow) have no sons, which means effectively that the Bennet estate is entailed away from the Bennet children and will be handed over, upon Mr. Bennet's death, to a cousin whom they have never met, a clergyman by the name of Mr. Collins. (David Bamber)
Mrs. Bennet is very aggrieved by this situation and moans about it constantly so she is therefore thrilled beyond measure when she hears from a neighbour that a magnificent local estate, Netherfield Park, has finally been rented, to a man of 'good fortune' by the name of Charles Bingley (Crispin Bonham Carter) who hails from the north of England, is single and will soon be in residence! Naturally, Mrs.Bennet can talk of little else as it is her goal to see to it that Mr. Bingley marries one of her daughters, with Jane (Susannah Harker) being, in her opinion, the most likely candidate as, in her mother's opinion, she is 'the prettiest'.
Needless to say, Mrs.Bennet and her two youngest daughters, Kitty (Polly Maberly) and Lydia (Julia Sawalha) can talk of little else but the as yet unseen Mr. Bingley but middle daughter, Mary, (Lucy Briers) who is very pious, and Mr.Bennet, are quite sick of hearing about him before too much time has passed. Second eldest daughter, Elizabeth, (Lizzie) (Jennifer Ehle) along with Jane wisely say little and just let their mother's extremeties continue.
There is much excitement when it is learned that Mr. Bingley, along with his two sisters, Miss Caroline Bingley (Anna Chancellor) and Mrs. Louise Hurst (Lucy Robinson) are to attend a local ball. Mr. Bingley turns out to be a warm and very charming young man, but his friend, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy (Colin Firth) is quite the opposite - egotistical, arrogant and aloof, he sees himself as being far above the assembled company and says so very loudly. Miss Bingley, obviously after the very wealthy Mr. Darcy for herself, totally agrees with his assessment, but Mr. Bingley is charmed by everyone present. Mrs. Bennet, not for the first time, makes a total foolof herself and, by extension, her daughters. With wedding bells ringing in her ears (hopefully) Mrs. Bennet sends Jane off on a visit to Netherfield after Mr. Bingley has shown a clear interest in her during other social occasions. On the way, Jane gets caught in a torrential downpour and ends up with pneumonia which she means she must stay at the house until she recovers, a fact which thrills Mrs. Bennet but infuriates Charles Bingley's two sister who are appalled by the Bennet family's low connections and often appallling social behaviour. When Elizabeth insists on staying to help her sister get well, the Bingley women are even more furious, particularly when Mr. Darcy shows an appreciation for Miss Elizabeth that surprises them greatly. For her part, Elizabeth is happy to leave Netherfield Park when Jane recovers and glad that she won't have to see the unpleasant Mr. Darcy again.
A truly superb piece of television that makes the characters created by Jane Austen come to life in a way never seen before or since.